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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

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192                              LIFE  OF
surface of the earth became no less the object of his
investigation than the fiery fluid, or petrified form of
the planet and its outer form.
With the infusoria he begins his account of the
animal kingdom, and with the microscopic plants, as
an entire perfect plant, the circle of vegetable life.
Humboldt was assisted in Ms general investigations of
this organic world by the most distinguished contem-
poraries, who revealed the secrets of the smallest space
by means of the microscope, and discovered life, mo-
tion, and repetition of the universal Oosmodian con-
ditions of existence in every vegetable or animal
organization invisible to common eyes. Organic life
is active everywhere on the surface of the earth, in its
precipices and its atmospheric altitudes; the great
ocean contains minute microscopic life far into the
polar circles of the arctic ocean. It has been proved
by direct observation, that cc in the eternal night of
-oceanic depths/* as BCnmboldt expresses himself, more
animal than vegetable life is developed, while on terra,
jirm>ciy the vegetable principle prevails ; yet the bulk
of the latter far exceeds that of the former, although
there is less land than sea. Modern naturalists be-
lieve they have discovered infusoria in the air. Hum-
boldt considers this discovery still doubtful, but not
impossible; he thinks that just as well as it has
been proved that pine pollen falls from the atmo-
sphere, ifc is possible thai little infusoria may be raised
upwards in vapour, and be retained floating in the air
for some time.* Ehrenberg has also discovered that
the misty dust rain which clouds the atmosphere near
the Cape Verd islands, 380 leagues from the African
coast, consists of the remains of eighteen different
silicious, polygastric infusoria.
Humboldt classified plants and animals first, accord-
ing to their social or their isolated character.    In Ms
* Even in portions of melted ice floating in round pieces in a
latitude of 78 10' more than fifty kinds of silicious polygastria, were
ibaiid, as well as coscinodisfcs with, their green OTraries, beings there-
fore capable of supporting life in the extreme of cold.